Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Vintage pattern collection - men smoking.

I have spoken before about my love of vintage knitting patterns, both ones that I wish to knit and ones that I pick up for a whole host of other reasons, some of which are covered here. At the end of this post on manly pursuits I mentioned that one of the other activities men undertake on the covers of knitting patterns is smoking. The more you look out for it the more patterns you find that feature smoking, even if the pipe is at the edge of the picture almost out of sight or the cigarette is almost hidden between fingers.

This dapper chap is holding his pipe on his knee, a detail that can be passed over at first glance.

From a social and medical history point of view I find the predominance of smoking on the cover of these patterns really interesting. Cigarette smoking became more popular in the UK after the death of Queen Victoria and in the 1920's and 1930's it was seen as a very sociable and glamorous activity. Throughout that time it was men who smoked and it gradually became more acceptable for women to smoke, from the flappers of the 1920's to the Hollywood stars of the 1930's.

In the 1940's the prevalence of cigarette smoking increased again, especially during the war years. Tobacco companies donated cigarettes for Service men and women, families sent them to loved ones who were serving and school children saved up and collected them to send from individual schools. Obviously, the donations from tobacco companies were not entirely altruistic, sending cigarettes to people in miserable, frightening and stressful situations increased the likelihood of people becoming addicted, therefore gaining the companies more customers.

In the 1950's the first murmurings about health issues relating to tobacco were arising and the tobacco companies went on an advertising offencive to deny this. This is the period where the adverts featured film stars, Santa Claus, opera singers, sportsmen and women and of course, doctors, talking about how good for you smoking was. This seems unbelievable given what we now know. Later on in the 1950's and into the 1960's the tobacco companies began to acknowledge some health issues, like coughing and an irritated throat. This lead to the development of filter tips and menthol cigarettes.

As a child I remember tobacco advertising on the television, in magazines and on billboards and then of course, it was banned. So I find it really interesting to see how it was perceived in prior decades. I think this is one reason why men smoking on pattern covers really leap out at me, as it is something that just would not happen now.

If you want to see examples of the tobacco advertising that I have mentioned do check out my vintage cigarette adverts board on Pinterest.

Now back to the patterns. Let's start with a fine selection of tank tops, a men's classic:

Such a jolly chap in his cable tank top. Looks like he is just ready to put his feet up after work and smoke his pipe.

Another lovely cable tank top and a much more serious chap, pondering the meaning of life over his pipe.

You almost can't see his sneaky cigarette. I love the diamond/trellis pattern on his tank top.

Quite the business man in his pinstripe trousers and cuff links. Not only is he holding his pipe, he also has his tobacco pouch in his hand.

A couple of Oxbridge students, in their hand knitted tank tops, lounging around the quad whilst smoking their pipes.

Here are a few waistcoats:

Waffle patterned and button through, perfect for a bit of nonchalant lounging on your mantelpiece, gazing at your mesmerising heavily patterned wallpaper.

Lots of Brylcreem here! Lovely shaping on the waistcoat. You can just spot his pipe at the bottom of the picture.

Now for a spot of Fair Isle:

Modelling a mighty fine Fair Isle tank top. I love the pattern and colourway.

Look at that smart haircut. This is a pretty motif.

Another fine pair of pinstriped trousers but a more casual look than before. There is more leaning on the mantelpiece going on with the owl watching it all wisely.

 Now what is this? A very freaky and unflattering tank top. No wonder the poor man won't make eye contact and is hiding in his greenhouse, he is far too ashamed to be seen in public.

Fancy a spot of map reading? A true manly pursuit as we have seen before.

A super sized map to make it easier to find your way. I like the cables on the tank top and matching cardigan, so cosy.

Nice contrast stripe on this V neck cardigan. He looks a little worried, maybe he can't find his way on the map.

Of course, if you are out and about walking after your map reading you may need a specific piece of knitwear - a windcheater.

Spot the pipe in his hand? It is blending in with the railings. Keeping snug whilst looking out onto the Thames and the Houses of Parliament. I like the cravat, a nice bit of accessorising.

This is interesting because it is a different pattern company and a different style windcheater but possibly the same model and same cravat?!

 Of course, it is not just for walking that you need a windcheater, it is most useful for keeping warm whilst driving your tractor.

Now for some cardigans:

He is posing rather awkwardly but I think he is riding a bike, whilst smoking a pipe, in a natty ribbed cardigan.

So, he is not actually smoking but his expression lets us know that he knows he has been caught out with that cigarette packet in his hand. Lovely pattern on the front of his cardi.

 Some poor person is on the receiving end of a death glare.

Now for some jumpers:

I like the contrasting cuffs and neck ribbing. He looks very happy to say that he has just found out that they can't afford to do an outdoor photo shoot and he will just have to imagine that he is strolling about the forest smoking his pipe.

A serious pose. It looks like he is by a river and he too is wearing a cravat.

Take your pick from the crew neck or the V neck. They are enjoying sitting around in the study smoking and drinking sherry.

I do like a good his 'n' hers knitting patter. Looks to be by a river again, I think she looks overjoyed as a boat is on its way to rescue her as he is a terrible bore.

No wonder he needs to take a pipe break, working out how to unpack that big fragile crate, can he lean his ladder against it?

I like this ribbed jumper.

He is a bit smug for my liking. I bet no one wants to play golf with him.

Just a few Aran knits to finish off:

I do like a nice, traditional Aran.

Messing about on the river!

Learning the tourist hot spots so that he can impress the ladies with his knowledge later on.

So there we have it, some of the best of my men smoking pattern collection.


  1. Ive always found little details like this in vintage images fascinating

    retro rover

  2. That Bestway tank top reminds me of the Wartime Farm one, though there are differences in the details.

    I occasionally show my husband old patterns, just to see the look of horror on his face...

    1. I would love to knit my husband one of these old patterns, I think there is some fantastic men's knitwear. Unfortunately, his face wears a look of horror too!

  3. I think Bestway 1979 is the wartime sleeveless pullover Susan Crawford has reworked?!

    The yellow tanktop is ridiculous if you ask me! It's so unflattering!

    I love most of those patterns! Smoking looks so stylish this way ;)

    1. That tank top is unflattering, strange, as most of the patterns are so stylish. I don't know if it is the wartime pullover but it is lovely.

  4. This really make me think of both of my grandfathers, who each smoked in their youth (and one until he passed in 1990). It's amazing in a way, to us just a few short decades later, so see how commonplace and encouraged/accepted smoking was. Could you imagine if ads, pattern covers, etc were still like this today? There would likely be a major public outcry!

    I always really enjoy your great roundups like this. Thank you for finding another interesting and enjoyable theme and sharing it with us, dear Kate.

    ♥ Jessica

    *PS* Many (!) thanks as well for each and every one of your recent blog comments. I'm sorry that Etsy shop going ons have made me a bit MIA as of late and thus not always able to comment on your posts. Hopefully things will be back on track there soon.

    1. Thanks for the lovely comment Jessica. The contrast between what we accept now and what was acceptable then is something I find fascinating. One of my grandads smoked for a long time after the war and I remember one of them smoking until I was a teenager.

      Hope that you are having fun with your Etsy shop, you have some lovely pieces.

  5. Brilliant! I love your commentary as much as the images. You've reminded me that my Grandpa used to smoke a pipe, when I was really little. Does anyone smoke a pipe these days I wonder? And you'd just never see a model smoking in a advert these days, would you. x

    1. Thank you Gillian. I can't think when I last saw someone smoking a pipe, I actually quite like the smell of pipe tobacco. I think the contrast between what we would see today is amazing.